During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims refrain from eating or drinking starting from dawn till dusk. To prepare for the fasting, Muslims wake up before dawn and the fajr prayer to eat a meal (Sahoor). Muslims break their fast at Maghrib (at sunset) prayer time with a meal called Iftar. Muslims may continue to eat and drink after the sun has set until the next morning's fajr prayer call. Ramadan is a time of reflecting , believing and worshiping God. Muslims are expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam and to avoid obscene and irreligious sights and sounds. Sexual activities during fasting hours are also forbidden. Purity of both thoughts and actions is important. The fast is intended to be an exacting act of deep personal worship in which Muslims seek a raised awareness of closeness to God.
The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the inner soul and free it from harm. It also teaches Muslims to practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less fortunate; thus encouraging actions of generosity and charity (Zakat).
Muslims should start observing the fasting ritual upon reaching the age of puberty, so long as they are healthy, sane and have no disabilities or illnesses. The elderly, the chronically ill, and the mentally ill are exempt from fasting, although the first two groups must endeavor to feed the poor in place of their missed fasting. People who are travelling long distances do not have to fast. Also exempt are pregnant women, women during the period of their menstruation, and women nursing their newborns. A difference of opinion exists among Islamic scholars as to whether this last group must make up the days they miss at a later date, or feed poor people as a recompense for days missed. While fasting is not considered compulsory in childhood, many children endeavour to complete as many fasts as possible as practice for later life. Lastly, those traveling (musaafir) are exempt, but must make up the days they miss. More specifically, Twelver Shī‘ah define those who travel more than 40 mi (64 km) in a day as exempt.
The elderly or those who suffer from a disability or disease and have no prospect of getting better in the future can pay the cost of Iftar for a person who cannot afford it, or else they can host such a person in their house and have him eat with them after sunset as a way of repaying for the days they could not fast.
A person who is observing Ramadan might break the fast accidentally, due to having forgotten it. In such an instance, one might spit out the food being eaten or cease the forbidden activity, immediately upon remembering the fast. This can usually happen in the early days of Ramadan because that person might have not yet been acclimated into fasting from dawn until dusk.